A dear friend recently became a grandma for the first time and now the baby is "already" a month old. How did that happen so quickly?

In a couple of months, two of my three children will "already" be in their 40s. How did that happen so quickly?

When I think back to "those thrilling days of yesteryear" -- to use a phrase we old-timers recognize from the introduction to "The Lone Ranger" -- I feel fortunate my vocation to parenthood began way back when and not here and now.

Although, we veteran parents discover, it's never really a case of "been there, done that." Yes, we're finished with the middle-of-the-night feedings, first steps, kindergarten, tooth fairy and all the other milestones leading up to their adulthood.

But -- surprise, and don't tell the new moms and dads -- parenting never ends.

Not in this lifetime and, I suspect, not in the next if we're there and our children and grandchildren remain here. (I'm more than a little sure my late wife, Monica, keeps busy praying for our three children, a son-in-law and two grandchildren. Not to mention keeping an eye on me.)

I suppose the often-overlooked lesson for parents -- rookies, veterans and those at all stages in between -- is this: You never get caught up on your parenting.

A few years ago, a high school classmate told me being a missionary is like being a rancher. He was the former, his dad the latter. There were always, always, always items waiting on the to-do list and more being added. Almost daily. Being a missionary, or a rancher, meant learning to live with that reality.

So does parenting. And that's the message, the wee bit of advice I'd have for new mommies and daddies.

You're not going to get "all caught up" so don't beat yourself up thinking you can be. Or, probably more self-damaging, thinking you should be.

If you're parenting well, you never will be. And that's the temporal and supernatural nature of ... no, not "the beast." "The blessing."

With that in mind, a few points to consider:

-- A large part of learning to parent comes from having to parent. Yes, the advice of others, the examples given by good moms and dads, and what health care professionals and parenting experts advise all help.

But, to use a Latin phrase: "experientia docet." Experience teaches. Perhaps especially when (3 a.m. comes to mind) you really want to skip class.

-- Your little darling, your teen, your adult child has God-given free will. Yes, you help your child learn to recognize and make good choices, but as the months and years go by, they decide what to do and what not to do.

One of the best feelings in this world is when they choose wisely. One of the hardest is when they choose ... otherwise.

It's easy to feel that, to one degree or another, you're to blame. But that's not necessarily so, although none of us is a perfect parent.

An adaptation of an old adage can help: The proof isn't always in the pudding when the pudding has free will. (Or, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree but, boy, does it roll sometimes!)

-- Love your child. Pray for your child. Thank God you have the honor and privilege of being a mom or dad. And remember God's with you every step, and misstep, of the way.

FamilyShare.com offers "15 tips for parenting young adults at home." Go to: https://tinyurl.com/YoungAdultsAtHome.

The writer and his late wife, Monica, were the founders of the Friends of St. John the Caregiver (www.FSJC.org). He can be contacted at [email protected]